January 2016, Day 15, Harumafuji v Hakuho

Last bout of the New Years Tournament, Yokozuna versus Yokozuna. Kotoshogiku already clinched the tournament a few bouts earlier, finishing with a 14-1 record, so there’s only pride resting on the result of this match-up. Hakuho isn’t ready for Harumafuji’s tachiai, so he apologizes to everyone involved and the referee resets them. The actual bout takes less than a second, with Harumafuji grabbing Hakuho’s belt with his left hand and pulling him down to his third loss. Both Yokozuna finish as runners up (along with Toyonoshima) with 12-3 records.

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January 2016, Day 15, Kotoshogiku v Goeido

I love Kotoshogiku’s pre-bout ritual. He slaps his thighs and backside, readjusts his mawashi, and stretches waaaay back one last time before throwing a huge handful of salt to the ceiling. Once he comes into the ring to face Goeido, you can almost see in his posture that he’s trying to calm himself before the biggest bout of his life. Once it starts, he pushes Goeido right to the edge, gets him leaning over the tawara, and when Goeido pushes back ‘Giku shoves his right hand into Goeido’s ribs and rolls him. Kotoshogiku wins his first ever Grand Championship.

January 2016, Day 15, Shodai v Gagamaru

Shodai brings his favorite tachiai, throwing a strong right shoulder into Gagamaru’s chest. From that point on he’s forced into defending against Gagamaru’s nodowa (throat push) attack, and manages to survive until he can slip inside and maneuver Gagamaru out to his eighth loss and make-koshi. Shodai finishes with a most excellent 10-5 record, and should see a good promotion next tournament.

January 2016, Day 15, Takanoiwa v Kotoyuki

Takanoiwa, you had to see this coming. You’re sitting there across the shikiri-sen from Kotoyuki, and you can see the man is fired up. He slaps his hands together, he lets loose with some kind of guttural “ho!” and the look in his eyes is totally focused. So what makes you think you can beat this man at his own tsuppari game? The big left hand that you think is going to stun him just leaves you out of position. He walks right through it and now you’re eating dirt.

January 2016, Day 14, Harumafuji v Kakuryu

If you’re going to beat Yokozuna Harumafuji, it’s best to do it before he gets a hold of your belt. He may be small, but he’s ridiculously strong and notoriously hard to shake once you’re in his grip. Yokozuna Kakuryu feels this pressure – Harumafuji gets the deep left-hand underhand grip all the way around the back of Kakuryu’s mawashi, and comes within a hair’s breadth of getting the right-hand overhand grip before Kakuryu strikes. He shifts his hips and applies all his strength to an armlock on Harumafuji’s left arm, crushing Harumafuji into the dohyo. Harumafuji loses for only the third time this tournament, but on Day 14 this puts him out of contention for the championship.

January 2016, Day 14, Kisenosato v Hakuho

Kisenosato plays spoiler today, pushing Hakuho out with shocking ease and knocking the Yokozuna off the top of the leader board. Not sure if Hakuho isn’t expecting Kisenosato to bring it or what, but his tachiai is tentative, his feet slide backwards, and he’s out in under two seconds. Kisenosato breaths a sigh of relief with his crucial eighth win.

January 2016, Day 14, Kotoshogiku v Tochiozan

Kotoshogiku, ladies and gentlemen. Massive slap with his left hand to Tochiozan’s face at the tachiai. Fast, powerful step-hops to the edge, staying low, moving forward, feet keeping up with his upper body. A final mighty shove to seal the deal. He sits alone atop the leader board with a record of 13-1. One more win tomorrow against the floundering Goeido and all his dreams come true.